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    Demiurge
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Incandescence - 7. Bet

*Violence/injuries

*At this point Wren/Eon are their own warning

The house was eerily quiet. I shouldn’t have entered without permission, but I was pressed for time and I wasn’t willing to stand outside longer than the 15 minutes I already had. Halfway through the courtyard, I had a moment of sheer terror where I thought I may walk in on something traumatizing. It would be no one’s fault but my own. That’s what I would get for not being more patient. I was climbing up the staircase when I noticed that I wasn’t alone.

Wren was balanced precariously on the railing to my right that overlooked the courtyard below. His hair was a mess, and his clothes weren’t much better. He wore his Verseckt leathers, and his vest looked like it’d almost been ripped from his body. How long had he been watching me? I was almost positive I hadn’t seen anyone when I’d come in. I paused at the top of the stairs when my gaze met his. The normal pink eyes were flooded with crimson. As I stared, his mouth curved into a fanged smile.

“Wren?” His legs dangled free in the air, and he kicked his feet lightly as he considered me.

“No one answered the door and so Sunbeam lets himself in.” Wren giggled softly as he swung his legs over the railing to stand on solid ground. One minute he was twenty feet away, the next we were nose-to-nose. I’d never seen his eyes so red before. I think Eon had explained a long time ago that it happened when he lost a lot of blood. Or hadn’t fed in a while. I needed to be very careful if that was the case.

“Have you not eaten? Where’s Eon?” Wren’s lips were chapped, and his breathing was more a string of soft pants. His chest was nearly heaving as he breathed shallowly.

“I couldn’t say. Perhaps in his precious war room? He hasn’t been sleeping here for days.” I instantly recalled Eon’s tired expression. Something had obviously happened. Was everyone falling apart around me?

“I find it hard to believe that Eon wouldn’t take care of you. Even if he was upset.” I crossed my arms. Wren was so close that it forced him back a couple inches.

“He left ‘food’ for me. I haven’t been able to eat. I can’t keep anything down.” I frowned, taking in the red eyes, panting, and a flush I hadn’t noticed before.

“Are you sick Wren?” He hissed and recoiled when I pressed the back of my hand to his forehead. Was it the same as it would be for a human? I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to tell if he had a fever, but one touch and my fear was laid to rest. Wren was burning up. Sweat coated his skin. He was so warm, it almost felt like touching Eon.

“Impossible. I don’t get sick human.”

I brushed his hair away from his face. The sweaty pieces clung to his forehead. It made me nervous, concern flaring as I guided the loose hairs away from his eyes. His eyes were hooded as he watched me and I pressed my fingers to his wrist, counting softly under my breath, “Is your heart rate naturally faster than a human’s?”

“They’re the same.” Wren snapped, yanking his arm from my grip. It was fine. I’d already discovered that his heart rate was high too.

“You’re sick Wren. You need to eat. Where does Eon keep your food?”

“Kitchen.” We turned as the front door closed and my brother continued into the manor. He didn’t acknowledge us farther and continued forward. To the kitchen. I smiled softly as I pushed more hair away from Wren’s face.

“T-tell your stupid brother I don’t need his help. I’m going to go to bed.”

Wren didn’t give me a chance to answer. He turned on his heel and went the opposite direction his partner did. Never mind that both of us knew that Wren didn’t sleep. He didn’t need to, “go to bed.” Deciding quickly which partner would be easier to deal with, I descended the stairs, following the path my sibling had taken. He was in the dimly lit kitchen, preparing something that I didn’t want to look too closely at.

“Why did you, Loren, Suman, and Tyren gather after the meeting? The other Council members may feel uneasy with that particular combination of people.” Eon’s voice was flat. I winced as he brought a cleaver down on a hunk of something.

“Other members? Not you Eon?” I ventured as I slid into one of two chairs against the wall.

“You were unhappy with the Council’s decision. I’m not stupid. I know you won’t accept it. The question is not whether or not you’ll do something, it’s when and what you’ll do.” Eon chopped again and the strong smell of iron circled me. I was still desperately trying to avoid thinking about what my brother was preparing. I didn’t want to know.

“You’re not going to tell the Council?” I rubbed my side.

“Would it do any good Kal? A good chunk of the Council already knows. You, Tyren, Hanja, and me. Not to mention our former and current delegates.” Shaking my head, I couldn’t help a small smile. Eon knew us too well. While it was news that Hanja and he had known, it wasn’t really a surprise.

“You and Hanja talked about it?” The cleaver paused its horrendous work and Eon sighed.

“It’s amazing what kind of bond you can build when you’re both avoiding your partner by overworking.” His hands resumed their work and I stared at his back. I hadn’t been gone that long. When had things reached this point?

“What’s going on between you and Wren?” I wanted to ask if Hanja had confided in my brother as well, but I let those questions go. I had a better idea of the current breakdown happening in the teachers’ relationship. As usual, Eon and Wren were a mystery.

The cleaver clattered to the countertop and then fell to the ground. My brother’s entire back had tensed and his large hands were gripping the edge of the counter, “Is it so hard for you to focus on your own matters?”

“You’re clearly upset. Wren is sick and acting strange. Is this about him not telling you Suman was in Syrin?”

“And you are teetering on the edge of betraying your country and committing regicide. We all have problems and things going on Kalian. Just because you’re my brother and I love you, doesn’t mean you hold the key to every part of my life.” Eon faced me now, anger smoldering in his eyes. My natural gauge must have kicked back in because I nailed down the hurt hidden amongst the other emotion easily. Even if he was snapping at me and demanding-rightfully-that I stay out of his business, it worried me that he was so openly hurting. Eon was rarely this transparent, but I could see it as well as any gaping physical wound. He faced away again, and the line of his shoulders was so rigid it looked nearly painful.

I stood, crossing the kitchen floor between us and coming to rest a hand lightly on Eon’s shoulder. He tensed but didn’t jerk away like I expected. I watched his body shudder as he took a deep breath. I rested my cheek on top of his shoulder, wrapping my arm around his waist awkwardly. I side-hugged my much larger brother and remained quiet. I don’t know how long we stood there. Me holding him the best I could while my brother’s blood-soaked hands and forearms rested on the counter below.

“What? You’re not going to keep prying?” He asked, voice rough.

“Not unless you want me to.” I slid my cheek back so I could look up at him from the strange angle. He looked so tired and hurt. It made my heart constrict in my chest.

“It’s like…I’m standing in loose sand. Every day is a struggle to stay on my feet. I think we’ve reached common ground, to only discover later that he never agreed and has no idea what I’m talking about. I don’t ever know where we stand. I don’t know where this is going. If the end is inevitable because Wren can’t or won’t understand me. I don't know if he wants to.” He said softly as he pulled the arm I’d pinned to his side free. He rested his now free hand on the top of my head. Hopefully, I wasn't getting smeared with blood.

“You love him and Wren loves you in his own way.” I said as Eon let his arm drop to rest on my shoulders. I sometimes still got stuck on how strange it was to hug my sibling. It wasn’t something we’d grown up doing. I shuddered to think what would’ve happened if I tried to do this before we’d left home and weathered so much together.

“Is that enough?” Eon’s other hand rubbed roughly over his beard. I cringed as he wiped blood over the lower half of his face.

“It has been for quite a while now. What changed?” I stepped back, ending our embrace. Eon leaned more against the counter, his hands flat on its surface now.

“I don’t know. Do you think I’m expecting too much from him? I knew getting into this how and what Wren was. It’s unfair for me to expect him to be something else.” Eon visibly slumped and I curled a piece of my hair around my finger as I thought.

“I know you two aren’t fans, but maybe you need to communicate?”

Eon let out a bitter laugh, “Have you met him?”

“Once or twice. If you don’t understand what’s going on or where you stand, perhaps you should discuss it with the other half of your partnership. You two are impossible sometimes.” I grabbed Eon’s hand and motioned to the plate full of carnage. He muttered unhappily behind me as we left the kitchen and made our way to their master bedroom. I booted open the door and was met with a deep growl. Wren was curled around a large body pillow (roughly the size of Eon) and he glared at me. His shock made him blink his glare away slowly as he saw Eon trailing me. The smaller man sat up, shoving the pillow from him. He hissed softly when we approached the bed.

I cut the hiss off with a dismissive snort, “Stop it. He brought you food.”

Wren watched Eon place the food on the endtable while I stopped by the bed. My brother was facing away from the both of us and his shoulders raised and dropped with a sigh, “You need to eat.”

“You need to go tell someone else what to do. You have an entire army for that, correct?” Wren snapped, baring his fangs.

“Do whatever you want then. Gods.” Eon stomped for the door and I rushed forward, gripping the edge of his powder blue tunic.

“Eon. Try.” I glanced behind me and watched Wren’s eyes dart between the two of us before dropping to the plate near him.

“Why am I the only one who has to?” Eon shook off my hand and resumed stomping back to the door.

He stopped in his tracks and we both looked when a soft voice said, “It’s my favorite. You brought my favorite.”

Wren was poking at the plate and Eon scrubbed his hand over his jaw, “I thought it might help you eat.”

“It’s illegal. You never get it for me.” Wren frowned across the room at the bigger man. I hid my smile as Wren struggled to understand what my brother had done. Wren shifted on the bed and his eyes flashed from red to pink, “You never break laws.”

The talk of Wren’s favorite meal made me a little queasy. Especially if it was illegal. The number of things I chose to turn a blind eye to in this house was growing. Eon hadn’t moved closer, and he was still turned away. Only his head was facing in his monster’s direction. He shifted from foot to foot and looked up at the ceiling. I suddenly felt very out of place. I felt like I was invading their privacy.

I only knew Wren had left the bed when he appeared in front of my brother. From my angle I could barely see clawed hands hesitantly reach out. They slid up my brother’s chest and I looked away as Eon jerked Wren closer. I chuckled as I heard Eon’s voice, “Can we stop being this way?”

“You first, flaming idiot.” Came the muffled response. I sat on the bed and tuned out the sound of mouths meeting.

I was so focused on blinding and deafening myself, that I nearly jumped out of my skin when Wren popped up in my face, “Why are you still here? I have plans for you brother. Plans you don’t want to be present for.”

A hand guided him away and into Eon’s lap as my brother sat on the bed. The plate was put in Wren’s lap and he picked at it, fingertips and chin slowly being stained red as he did so. I smiled at my brother, giggling at his red ears and newly split lower lip, “I have a problem that I think you may be well-suited for, Wren.”

He gnawed on a piece of food as he looked at me with little interest. When he continued eating without answer, I rolled my eyes at Eon. He didn’t notice. His face was nuzzled into Wren’s neck, thick arms wrapped around the other’s small waist. I smiled yet again, “I need your help.”

Wren’s eyes lit up as he sucked meat off a bone. He shoved at Eon’s head when my brother nipped his neck, “How fascinating. You’ve never asked me for a favor.”

“I normally would avoid it at all costs, but I need your particular set of skills.” I frowned, picturing Wyn’s upset face from the day before.

“Which skills?” Eon asked, eyebrow raised as he looked at me skeptically.

“I need you to scare some adults. Maybe some kids. You can’t get caught, though. No one can know it was you.”

Wren let whatever he’d been munching on fall to the plate with a disgusting splat as he grinned toothily at me, “Well, firstly, I’m insulted that you would even suggest that I’d be caught. Secondly, oh Sunbeam. This is very unlike you. What have these people done to you?”

“Not me. Wyn. I think he’s getting bullied because of us.”

“Us?” Eon’s voice was low, anger creeping in as a shadow fell over his face.

“Talon, me, and Wren at least. Maybe our entire strange family.”

“Who.” Wren growled, clenching the plate so tight that it shattered in his grip.

“I don’t know. He won’t tell me what’s going on.”

“I will find out.” Wren’s lip curled, sharp fangs exposed.

“As much as I would like to destroy anyone that hurts Wyn, there’s too much risk involved. Wren could and probably will get carried away. It could lead to trouble for all of us and make things even harder for Wyn.” Eon sighed, setting Wren on the bed as he attempted to clean up the mess of food and plate shards that sat in the other man’s lap and littered the floor. I was beginning to think my brother was trying to be difficult. The rational part of me knew he was right. The part of me that was a very protective parent didn’t care. That bit wanted blood. No matter the cost.

“Is your go-to now to sit by and do nothing?” I sighed.

“You must know I won’t allow my boy to be treated this way.” Wren hissed at his partner as Eon’s large form knelt on the ground. He was still trying to clean up the mess.

“I never said we’d do nothing. Wyn is a first year. Combat practice won’t happen until his third. His entire family is full of weapon, combat, and Magik experts. I suggest we simply move up his training. We’ll give him a physical advantage.” Eon said as he looked up at us. The glint in his eye was mischievous and so unlike him. He’d been so flat lately that it made me smile.

“None of you like the way I teach. I won’t take it easy on him.” Wren crossed his arms, bloody fingers leaving smears of blood on his sleeves. I laughed and Eon chuckled softly. The white-haired man was right. I still remembered a long, drawn-out conversation where Talon and Amaris had to argue with him about his specific methods. Torture was still not an appropriate route to go. I left their home a bit later. I felt lighter. We had a plan. Myself, Talon, and our family would indeed train the boy to defend himself. It was better that way. He had to show he could fight his own battles. That being said…Wren would be far, far down the line.

 

It was mid-morning. I’d walked Wyn to the school earlier and the house would be empty. Besides Lydia and her husband of course. My feet decided our end destination on their own. I walked through Syrin as it still woke up. People smiled and waved, and I returned the gestures. The atmosphere changed considerably as it always did when I continued my descent. The roads and people became rougher. I frowned to myself. When we’d first taken control, I had so many plans for the lower layers. I hadn’t seen any of them through. It was like the first and second layer were a different world. Still.

Forced from my thoughts, I side-stepped as a small, dirty man almost ran into me. It was just like the day I’d been pickpocketed by a similar sort. I’d been a different person then. Scared, disowned, and uncertain. I smiled to myself as images of our trek through town filled my head. Nobody even trusted me to walk in the lower levels alone. With good reason. I hadn’t even noticed the clumsy theft attempt. I had been so shocked when Talon had caught the man and he’d had my money. It wasn’t the case this time. This one I noticed. It was clumsy. He didn’t even manage to get his fingers in my pockets. He looked at me with big, hazel eyes and tried to make a run for it.

“Wait.” I snagged his sleeve and tried not to laugh when the rapid apologies and excuses started. The poor thing was nearly crying. I reached into my jacket. He was terrified by this point and flinched when I withdrew my coin purse.

“Do you have a family?” I asked softly, looking into at his thin face.

His scared eyes darted this way and that. He was still trying to free himself from my grip as he gasped, “Yes! Lord please!”

“How many?” I tilted my head to the side.

“F-four children. My wife-she’s sick. Please don’t hurt me. There ain’t anyone else to take care of them.” He rasped, giving up his struggle at last.

“Sick with what?”

“I d-don’t know sir. We can’t afford no healer.”

“Take this.” I held out the coin purse, “Bring her to the palace tomorrow. I will look her over myself.”

He froze and the tears seemed to erupt from his face. He went from dry cheeks to full, open sobs. I pressed the coin purse into his hands and stepped around him, “Tomorrow. Ask for me. My name’s Kalian. I’ll be expecting you.”

He was gone when I glanced back, and I wondered if I hadn’t been a little naïve. My inexperience and too-trusting personality did sometimes rear their ugly heads. It’d be interesting to see if the man showed up. When I faced forward, I nearly ran into a chest. I frowned as hands gripped my waist and a nose nuzzled my neck, “Gullible, love. He’s going to spend that money on women and drink.”

“You’re probably right. Oh well. It’s not as if we don’t have more.” Talon tucked me into his side, kissing the top of my head as I played with the hem of his tight black top. This one had intricate weaving, silver, embroidery around the deep ‘v’ neckline and fitted sleeves. The garment was also tight on his chest. I pouted while my brain reminded me that I’d be sleeping alone again tonight. The reason for that stood five feet to our left. Suman was watching me with a thoughtful expression, the corners of his lips barely upturned.

“Again with the open, gross, public affection.” He rolled his eyes.

“Don’t be shitty because Loren still won’t spare you a passing glance.” Talon smirked at his cousin, far from friendly. Talon pulled me along, keeping me close as they started to walk. Back the way I came, I noticed.

“I’m breaking him down. It’s a challenge. I like challenges.” Suman wore a devious, wide smile that made me want to step farther away from him.

“I would like to put it out there that I hate the very thought of you two even standing too close together. Let alone touching or more.” I made a face and Talon laughed. What had the cousins been talking about? Suman hadn’t been secretive about his attraction, but I didn’t know he was this serious. What on earth had they been doing while Talon kept an eye on the other man? Did they lay around like schoolgirls with their legs kicking behind them as they squealed about boys? I covered my mouth as I failed to hold in my laughter at the mental image. Talon pinched my side and I laughed openly when I realized he must’ve seen my thoughts as well.

He held me tighter yet to his side. It was making it awkward to walk, actually. He kissed my cheek as we walked, mumbling so Suman couldn’t hear, “I’ve missed you.”

I ran my hand over his back and down to the lower half as we continued to ascend, “I still miss you. I know I’m going to sleep alone again tonight. It’s been too many nights.”

“Why not force me to sleep in your fancy manor?” Suman hummed.

“I don’t want you around Wyn.” Talon responded without missing a beat. Suman didn’t seem to have an answer. We fell silent and the conversation died.

Talon and I separated to a more appropriate distance. I wasn’t glued to him any longer and the clingy part of me missed it a little. We’d settled for linked fingers. Suman had tried to hold Talon’s other hand, but he’d received a warning look the minute he’d reached out. We were close to the palace now and it occurred to me that I didn’t know what we were doing. The fact that I should be working also popped up, but that I ignored. I couldn’t remember the last day Talon and I had spent together. Even Suman couldn’t ruin it for me.

“What are we doing?” I asked as we turned sharply, headed now for the old training grounds.

“You’ll see.” Suman giggled. I looked at him in confusion until we got closer to the grounds. Loren was at the edge of the ring. His hair was secured in a tight ponytail away from his face and he stretched his arms above his head. The pastel green, open vest he wore lifted up to reveal his tanned skin as he stretched his arms above his head. He turned to wave at us and then threw the vest to the ground. The inked tiger spanning his entire back was on display and even I would admit it was impressive. Now just in tight-fitting cream pants, there was a great deal of Loren’s tanned, toned body on display. Talon gripped my chin and kissed me when my eyes lingered for a tiny bit too long. As if his hadn’t as well. Both of us ignored Suman’s open, appreciative staring. My nose scrunched when Loren smirked at the prince and Suman managed a grin but his cheeks tinged red.

Gross.

Definitely a match made in the worst corners of the world.

Then a thought occurred, "You and Suman? Sparing?”

“Not quite.” Loren grinned, cracking his knuckles on either hand with his thumb.

“What?”

“The goblin and I have made a bet.” Talon mumbled as he nipped my earlobe. He was gathering his hair behind his head as he followed Loren into the ring.

“Wait. Wait. You two? You had this planned? What if I hadn’t run into you today?” I whined.

“Then I would’ve kicked Loren’s ass with less of an audience.” Talon shrugged as he rolled his neck on his shoulders.

“Oh, such confidence my broody king.” Loren chuckled as he bounced on the balls of his feet.

“What is even happening?” I stared as they both fell into very different stances.

“History maybe?” Suman chuckled. His voice was far too close and when I turned, we were almost shoulder to shoulder.

“You’ve lost before. I almost smashed your entire body. I think I have a right to be confident.” Talon called across the ring.

“Yes, handsome. With Magik. That’s not part of it this time. No weapons at all. Also, I seem to remember stabbing you in the neck.” Loren’s smile had lost its mirth.

“Lucky shot. I was distraught. Yeah, yeah. I know the rules. Shut up and come on.”

My hands tightened into fists as I watched them circle the outside of the ring. Both sets of eyes scanned their opponent. I looked at the men too. Talon had always been loose-limbed and far faster than his size would suggest. He was strong and had a ridiculous reach. On the other hand, Loren possessed one of the most fluid and adaptive fighting styles I had ever seen. It was like he danced through his movements. Every part of him moved smoothly, like water flowing. He was just as fast as Talon. If I was being honest with myself, I would admit that Loren was faster. The more I thought, the more my anxiety grew. I was biased. I wanted to declare that I had no doubts my husband would win, but I wasn’t so sure.

“Who you got? Your lover?” Suman muttered. I glanced over and realized he was also watching the men with appraising eyes.

“I don’t know.” I answered truthfully.

Up until this point, no one had made contact. They’d continued to circle. I crossed my arms over my chest, focusing to pick up every small movement. In the end, it was a tie for who lost patience first. They met in the middle of the ring, and I tried to keep up with their fast-moving limbs. Loren dodged a punch aimed for his face. He countered with a kick aimed for the ribs on Talon’s left side. Talon blocked the leg with his forearms, and I winced at the noise from the impact. One of Talon’s hands left the block and he gripped Loren’s ankle. He jerked it upwards, trying to throw him off balance. I stared as Loren dropped his upper body, palms hitting the ground as he spun.

He’d twisted his own foot awkwardly in Talon’s grip to swing his other around. Talon let go and stumbled back. He’d been unable to avoid this kick to the face. Hands still on the ground, Loren eyed Talon as he crouched. Talon shook his head once and wiped at his mouth. The corner was wet with blood and when Talon smiled, his teeth were red. Sometimes I forgot who exactly Talon was and then he’d do things that reminded me he scared and intimidated a lot of people. I kept that in mind as I bit my lip and squeezed my thighs together slightly. Good gods, the man was so hot it was unfair. I had married him. For the love of all existence-how?

I was still trying to process my divine luck and how Loren had twisted his ankle around in Talon’s grip when they sprang at each other again. Talon struck out and Loren dodged, but it was the same thing he’d done before. Talon was ready for it. He spun around the slightly shorter man and hauled his arm up behind his back. Talon kicked at Loren’s ankle as he forced his arm up farther. Loren grimaced and his mouth hung open as his shoulder made an awful popping noise. Then Talon’s grip must have loosened because Loren yanked himself free. His arm hung at his side, and he was stepping down lightly on the ankle Talon had kicked and he’d twisted earlier. They were both panting, and more blood had dripped from Talon’s mouth. It was dripping on the exposed strip of skin from his deep neckline, and I wanted to close my eyes. I didn’t want to look anymore.

“I have to say I’m a little disappointed.” Suman sighed, pouting beside me. I wouldn’t admit that I had been nearly panicking and now that Loren was disabled a bit, I felt worlds better. I should’ve never doubted Talon. I let out a sigh of relief, trying to hide it. I was still so anxious. I liked it much better when Talon was clearly far superior to his opponent.

“Wait.” I barely managed to remain in my skin when Wren spoke up on my other side. I glanced down at him, unsure what he was waiting for, before returning my attention to the fight. It had to be over, right? Loren was missing a limb on each side of his body!

Loren straightened and I resisted the urge to look away again and cover my ears when he forced his arm back into place. He was stiff. He’d lost a lot of his elegance to pain and injury, but he still shook it off and faced Talon again. Talon looked across the ring, face serious, “Done?”

“Oh, Talon,” Loren chuckled, voice a little strained, “I hadn’t pegged you for a man that finished early. I’m fine, darling. Don’t you worry about me.”

I saw it as it happened. I was surprised my senses had sharpened so much over the years that I could see the point when Talon lowered his guard the tiniest bit to shout an insult. Loren was across the ring and in his space almost faster than I could track. He moved in close, and Talon was on the defensive, reach rendered temporarily useless. Loren side-stepped a counter hit and kneed Talon hard in the side. He connected so hard, my own ribs aches in sympathy. I even felt the pain shudder over the connection which was rare for Talon.

Then Loren danced out of reach, still slower than normal as he started to baby his ankle. He’d scored an impressive hit, but it’d cost him more mobility. Talon watched his opponent, still following his every move, but they were both starting to struggle. Talon clutched his side and grimaced as I watched.

It went on longer than I anticipated. I’d never seen a spar last this long. They were both panting heavily. Bloodied, bruised, and exhausted. Loren was limping in earnest now and Talon shied away any time a blow neared his side and lower abdomen. I gripped my collar as he turned his head and spit blood. Frowning, I glanced to Suman and Wren. Wren’s face was somber, eyes tracking both men. His claws ghosted over his lips (that I noticed were swollen and cut up, but I ignored that) as he remained lost in his own thoughts and appraisals. Suman’s eyes were wide. He tugged absentmindedly at the ends of his hair as his gaze remained locked on the men. As impressive as the entire thing was, I had lost my patience.

“What was the wager? This is getting dangerous.”

“Who’s stuck with me.” Suman laughed, “I think your husband is starting to get lonely cousin. You two are so disgustingly in love.”

“That’s it? There is no way Loren should be in charge of anyone. Especially not you.” I stared at the two men still bobbing and weaving around the ring. My whole body ached in sympathy now. They had to be hurting.

“I’m half tempted to trip Talon up so Loren wins, and I get to be alone with him.” Suman licked his lips and I cringed.

“Gross. Also, just try to trip Talon. Try it.” Suman grinned at me, and we stared each other down for a moment. Were we going to have another impromptu sparring match?

“It’s inevitable. I get what I want, and I really want to be alone with the prince from across the sea.” Suman finally said as he looked away and laughed.

“Careful Suman, you sounded a lot like a spoiled brat right there.”

I rubbed my temples as Talon staggered and Loren managed to boot him square in the stomach. My husband managed to catch Loren’s ankle again before he withdrew. It was twisted again-this time it wasn’t Loren’s choice. He gasped loudly as Talon snapped it like it was nothing. Then he hit him hard enough in the jaw that Loren fell to the ground. The other fighter had gone down hard, but he didn’t give up. Loren was struggling to stand. His ankle had remained at a bad angle, however, and the rest of him was battered thoroughly. His opponent wasn’t much better. Talon clutched his stomach, coughing and sputtering blood onto his hand. He took a few steps back and then lowered himself to the ground. I use “lowered” very loosely. He more honestly fell the last few inches onto his ass. There he stayed, sucking wind into what I’m sure were battered lungs.

“It’s a tie. Stop you two. You’re going to kill each other!” I called, inching closer to the edge of the ring. I could make them stop if I really had to.

“Someone has to win.” Talon panted, head hanging.

“It can’t be a draw when something is on the line.” Loren agreed, flinching as he tried to push himself up again.

“Impossible. I’ll oversee Suman! He’ll stay in the house. If Wyn must move into our room, I’ll make sure his influence is limited.” I stomped into the ring, shoving Talon back down as he too attempted to get up.

“He shouldn’t be around Wyn.” Talon growled. I pushed my fingers into his side, glaring as I ground out my spell. He bit back a gasp of pain and looked away. There was far more damage than he’d let on. I knew Loren would be the same.

“I wouldn’t hurt the kid.” Suman’s voice was closer. He and Wren had followed me into the ring and were only a small distance away.

“If you do, or if you put him in any kind of danger, you know I will come for you.” I threw a look over my shoulder and for the first time, Suman didn’t mock me.

“Should you threaten my boy, I will introduce you to new, exquisite worlds of pain and suffering. Nowhere on this earth would be safe for you.” Suman glanced down at Wren. The head of the Verseckt stared back at him, eyes flashing dangerous red as he smiled eerily. His fangs were on full display and Suman had enough sense to take a step back.

“Like I said, I would never.”

I turned and crawled over to Loren. His ankle looked awful, and I looked at him apologetically as I turned it as gently as I could in the right direction. I started my spell right away and ignored the man’s muffled, pained cry. I had never heard him sound like that. The few times we’d almost lost Loren, I was nowhere close enough to see the damage he’d sustained. Anders’ throne room flashed into my head, and I mentally ran from the image of Loren being swept up in a sea of red soldiers.

“There would be a line of men and women who would gladly punish you if you went back on your words.” Loren grit his teeth as he gasped the words. As I had predicted, he was in terrible shape.

“I still think we should get it over with and just kill him.” Talon mumbled as he stood, long fingers running over his stomach. I helped Loren to his feet and held on while he hesitantly put weight on the ankle. He ruffled my hair when he found it suitably fixed. Swatting him away, I met Suman’s eyes.

“I want you help with my grandfather, but Kalian you were right. You’ve no reason to help me and I’ve given you every reason not to trust me. On top of that, your Council won’t act. I’m asking you to risk your position and way of life to help anyway. I’m willing to…share more and I will defend Wyn with my very life.” It was quiet. Suman was looking at me earnestly. None of his normal smug smiles or condescending expressions were in place. He seemed serious and genuine.

“That sounds nice, but again, we have no reason to trust you. You’ve said it yourself more than once. You even attacked Kalian.” Talon spoke up after everyone else remained silent.

“I’ll pay for your initial trust with information. I know more about what’s going on in Illiath.” Suman held his cousin’s piercing eye contact.

“How? How do you have information and how did you come about it? Dleth and Illiath aren’t allied.” Loren frowned; fingers linked behind his head as he looked up at the sky.

“Are they not?”

Wren’s head tilted to the side, fang tips poking out as he tapped a claw against his temple, “Share what you know. I tire of you talking in circles with endless vagueness. Out with it. I’ve been on this planet too long to listen to a child playing games because he thinks he’s clever. You haven’t been on this planet long enough to be adroit human.”

I covered my mouth to stifle a laugh. Loren grinned and Talon chuckled. Wren simply waited, red coloring the very outside edge of his iris. Suman brought his long hair over his shoulder, toying with the ends. He cleared his throat, “Illiath is trying to establish an alliance with Dleth. They have been for quite some time.”

“For 'quite some time'. Be more specific.” Loren said, still watching the sky.

“Since they figured out your country wasn’t going to crumble. To top it off, you know about Dleth’s long-term alliance with Serran. Both countries that border you are not fans of yours. Serran’s been quiet. They move with far more stealth than Dleth and Illiath.”

I rubbed my face. He was right. Serran was on the same page as Dleth when it came to Magik users. If they allied with Illiath along with Dleth, we could have a very serious problem. Serran had lost badly in previous battles when our former king had been alive. Eon had fought in some of the skirmishes. That was nearly a decade ago, however. They could’ve rebuilt. They could be a threat again. A headache was brewing in the back of my head. To think, the only thing I’d been worried about today was Wyn being treated poorly at school. Now there was possibly a three-country force assembling against us.

“How do you know this?” Talon looked as upset as I felt. I thought I might be sick right there in the middle of the ring.

“I never said I’d divulge my sources.” Suman was looking down at the ground.

“How do we know they’re reliable?” Wren asked, claw tapping against his fang.

“I knew about Loren, didn’t I? I got into your city mostly unnoticed. I have my ways and I have my friends who would rather keep their heads.”

“Fine. Say this is all true, do you have any kind of time frame?” Loren snapped, startling me.

“The king of Illiath will be dead by the end of the month. Your second eldest brother has plans for your oldest one and the one younger than him. In one fell swoop, he plans to eliminate all obstacles in his path to the throne. Then, rumor has it, his eyes will turn to Dimian.”

“Why? Why would he want to fight a war over a sea? His resources will be stretched thin.” I frowned, resting my hand on Talon’s arm as it wrapped around my waist.

“They mean to destroy us.” Wren said, voice dipping into a hiss.

“An attack from the sea and every border. Our military isn’t ready for one army, let alone three. Eon said it himself.” Loren’s hands dropped to his sides; face stricken.

“We’ll be overwhelmed. They will stroll in and take whatever they want.” Talon’s tone was incredulous.

“No. They won’t. They won’t make it that far.” I gripped Talon’s arm tighter as tension rolled through my body. We’d already fought for Dimian. I’d been willing to fight for the people of Dleth. The thought that foreign powers believed they could take what we built was infuriating.

“Eon needs to know. Everyone needs to know. We need to call the Council together. Wren, we may even need the Verseckt on the front lines.” Talon said, subconsciously holding me tighter.

“There’s more.” Suman cut in.

“What else could there possibly be?” Loren frowned.

“Once upon a time, Anders repeatedly used a toxin to take Kalian’s Magik from him.”

“Yes, pleasant memories.” I deadpanned.

“The poison came from Serran. They’re stockpiling it.” Suman flinched as four sets of eyes snapped to him.

“They thought of everything. They’d take the only advantage we have left.” Talon sighed.

“There are ways around it. Just don’t get hit. Plus, Nyx is still in the country. He’s made an antidote before. He can make one again.” My voice was filled with panic and there was nothing I could do to fix it. I was scared.

“Again, the Council needs to be called together. We need Hanja and Tyren.” Talon again pulled me tighter to him as he sensed my emotions roiling through the connection. At this rate, he might absorb me into his body.

“It seems our band of losers is going to war again.” Loren chuckled.

So. Much. Dialogue.

Big ooft.

Also, it seems people aren’t being notified when this is updated ☹️

🖤D

Copyright © 2021 Demiurge; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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I’m glad I try looking at the whole list of stories ( because I quite frequently/randomly don’t receive notifications).  I found the last two chapters just by chance today!  Yayyyy!!!

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OMFG, Suman wants help, sees the truth of Dimian first hand, and yet he waits until now to disclose that the one beacon of light, pun included, in the region is being targeted for annihilation. With such good intelligence, if proven true, perhaps a synchronous jump to Illiath to assassinate the assassins before the eyes of their targets. 

One misfit pairs relationship is on the mend, hopefully so is another. Maybe Talon needs sparring practice with Eon & Wren! 😝 …lots of blood and bones involved for non-combat. Wyn may surprise us all in laying out a little punishment unique to is Druid…roots? Geez…more puns.

@Demiurge, what have you done, blood and bone, bruised and battered, the misfits are re-conditioning themselves for things to come 🙊; whom to trust, and just who are the true enemies…. An old saying within intelligence says “in god we trust - all others we monitor;” this seem more appropriate now than ever. 

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It's a nightmare scenario, a three front war and we have to assume their enemies already know their strengths and weaknesses. The least threat at the moment is Illiath, although taking out the one who would be king would be the best first move and eliminate this   before it begins.

Second stealth move would be to destroy Serran's stores of toxin, limit access to the precursors, and kill everyone who can make it. Lots of busy work for Wren's folks.

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Thank you@Demuirge...I still stand with my earlier stance....Suman is definitely becoming my charming MVP of this season..😉

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3 hours ago, drpaladin said:

It's a nightmare scenario, a three front war and we have to assume their enemies already know their strengths and weaknesses. The least threat at the moment is Illiath, although taking out the one who would be king would be the best first move and eliminate this   before it begins.

Second stealth move would be to destroy Serran's stores of toxin, limit access to the precursors, and kill everyone who can make it. Lots of busy work for Wren's folks.

Clap Applause GIF

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On 1/6/2022 at 2:30 AM, purrbaby said:

I’m glad I try looking at the whole list of stories ( because I quite frequently/randomly don’t receive notifications).  I found the last two chapters just by chance today!  Yayyyy!!

 

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I thought I was the only one not getting notifications, going through stories helped as I found this chapter and another of Dejection and Hope

 

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@Maundy yeah I believe the issue with editing/publishing was getting me. Glad you found the chapters though!

Thanks for reading 🖤

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Me at the end of the chapter: “WHY ARE YOU JUST TELLING THEM NOW?!!!!”

Can’t wait to see who asks Suman that question lollll.

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Nothing like a war to bring partners together. It’s the thought they might lose each other …

Peacetime doesn’t suit this crew.

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Y'know, it's interesting (and lovely) that, despite everyone's differences and their individual agendas, Wyn remains the common denominator. All the adults love him -- even Wren, for whom love is a foreign concept -- and each and every one of them will go to bat for him. I find it incredibly heartwarming.

I hope Eon and Wren work out. Their f*cked up dynamic notwithstanding, they provide what the other needs without thinking about themselves and that's precious. Once they realize selflessness isn't weakness, they'll be great.

Heh, and unlike Kalian, I totally want to see what happens when Loren and Suman pair up. You can't find a more Chaotic Neutral couple. What fun!

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Demiurge

Posted (edited)

@Danners I feel like Wren is a cat. He’s just decided Wyn is his and he’s territorial 🤷🏻

Edited by Demiurge
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3 hours ago, Demiurge said:

@Danners I feel like Wren is a cat. He’s just decided Wren is his and he’s territorial 🤷🏻

Wren is a cat! Omigod!

Chris Pratt Mind Blown GIF by Omaze

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Is this maybe suman's way of inciting Dimian to go to war against the dleth? Making them think that they're going to get hit by three countries at once, to force them into declaring war themselves? They have the versekt, why don't they use them for plausible deniability?

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